Vancouver police are reporting what they call an “alarming” uptick in unprovoked stranger attacks amounting to four random assaults per day over the last year.
In a thread posted to Twitter, the department said it had asked strategic researchers to take a “deep dive” into crime statistics after noticing an apparent increase in the incidents.
Analysts defined an “unprovoked stranger” as someone who had no previous relationship with the victim and who interacted with the victim for less than 15 seconds before the assault. All incidents were “unreasonable given the circumstances,” according to police.
After crunching the numbers on assaults reported to the VPD between Sept. 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021 police found 1,555 unprovoked stranger assaults involving 1,705 victims.
Of those files, 47 per cent involved weapons and 28 per cent involved suspects with mental illness.
Just over three quarters of the victims were male.
Incidents ranged from a woman out for a walk near Trout Lake with her elderly father who was punched in the nose by what appeared to be a 12-year-old girl to a man having his throat cut from behind while running errands in Mount Pleasant.
While police assert the number of stranger assaults is on the rise, the number of overall assaults citywide has remained relatively constant.
In the first nine months of 2021, VPD crime stats show 3,508 reported assaults, compared to 3,490 reports in the first nine months of 2020, and 3,405 in the first nine months of 2019.
In September, Vancouver police said they were redeploying more officers in the downtown core amid increasing concerns from residents and businesses about public safety.